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In Memorial Day remarks, Biden honors soldiers who died fighting for the 'best of America'

President Joe Biden
Posted at 5:32 AM, May 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-31 11:12:51-04

Marking his first Memorial Day as Commander in Chief, President Joe Biden called on Americans to do their part in upholding the values of democracy in remarks at Arlington National Cemetery.

"Remember their sacrifice, their valor and their grace," Biden said in his remarks Monday.

In calling democracy the "soul of America," Biden called on all Americans — not just those fighting in the military — to uphold the country's values during an era where he said Democracy was "in peril, here at home and around the world."

"We must honor their sacrifice by sustaining the best of America," Biden said.

Biden also spoke about the sacrifices of those who died defending the country, specifically mentioning those who have died in current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"7,036 fallen angels who have lost their lives to these conflicts," Biden said. "Duty, honor and country — they lived for it, they died for it, and we as a nation are eternally grateful."

Biden also remembered his son, Beau, a National Guard veteran who served in Iraq and died of brain cancer six years ago Sunday.

"To those who mourn a loved one today, Jill and I have some idea of how you're feeling," Biden said. "Our losses are not the same, but that black hole you feel in your chest as if it's going to suck you into it, we get. ... I always feel Beau close to me on Memorial Day. I know exactly where I need to be — right here."

Monday's remarks continued an emotional first Memorial Day weekend as president for Biden. On Sunday, he delivered public remarks from New Castle, Delaware, near his home Wilmington. During that address, Biden remembered his son, calling Beau's service in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard "one of the proudest things he did in his life."

Biden also paid tribute to American service members across the country who have died defending their country.

"As a nation, we must always remember — always remember," Biden said Sunday. "We must remember the price that was paid for our liberties. We must remember the debt we owe those who have paid it, and the families left behind. My heart is torn in half by the grief. The communities were never whole again."

Monday's remarks came moments after he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It marked his second trip as president to the monument — he also went to Arlington on his Inauguration Day.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden and the second gentleman Doug Emhoff were also in attendance at Monday's ceremony.

Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is in an act that has become a Veterans Day and Memorial Day tradition for presidents in the years since the remains of several unidentified U.S. soldiers who fought in World War I were interred at the cemetery in 1921.

In the years since, remains of other unidentified soldiers from World War II and the Korean War have been interred in at the Tomb.

The remains of a U.S. soldier who fought in the Vietnam War were briefly interred in the Tomb before scientists identified them as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie.

Blassie's remains were removed from the Tomb in 1998 upon his family's request.

The Tomb has come to represent all U.S. soldiers who have been killed or remain missing in action.